The Bioengineering Section successfully applied to the General Council of the Academy to have a Silver Medal awarded for the Samuel Haughton Lecture. The lecture will be in the field of bioengineering and will be delivered annually. The lecturer will be Irish, or be working in Ireland, and will alternate between a medically qualified person and one qualified in engineering and related sciences. The lecturer will be a distinguished figure in their field, of Consultant or senior academic or professional status, with a substantial body of published work. A Selection Committee, composed of the President, Secretary and two Council Members of the Section and two nominated members of the General Council of the Academy, will invite a suitable person to deliver the Samuel Haughton Lecture.
The Haughton Lecture in honour of Rev. Samuel Haughton is organised by the Section of Bioengineering. The lecturer receives the Academy’s silver medal.
“Death is produced by hanging in one or other of the three following ways:
1. By apoplexy, caused by pressure on the jugular veins;
2. By asphyxia, caused by stoppage of the windpipe;
3. By shock of the medulla oblongata, caused by fracture of the vertebral column.
In the first two cases death is preceded by convulsions, lasting from five to forty five minutes …… In the third case death is instantaneous and painless…”
Samuel Haughton, was born in Carlow in 1821, the son of a Quaker. He excelled as a scientist and mathematician. He graduated in mathematics from Trinity College before turning his attention to medicine. And as you can see from the words quoted above he is best remembered for a discovery which combined all three disciplines. He worked out a mathematical, scientific and medical computation known as “Haughton’s Drop“. Not however a ‘drop’ of medicinal liquid but an instruction to the hangman when dealing with prisoners sentenced to death. Those sentenced to such an end would be hanged by the neck until death released them. The hangman always used a short rope, not sufficient to break the neck. Haughton worked out the precise length of rope, the exact depth of fall and the condemned persons weight was required in order to make the execution quick. He worked it out that a 4.5 metre drop was required to hang a person weighing 72.5 kilos.
At the age of 23 in 1844 he was elected a Fellow of Trinity and he held the chair of Professor of Geology for thirty years from 1851 to 1881 and in latter years he was elected a Senior Fellow. He was ordained a priest into the Church of Ireland in 1847, the Reverend Samuel Haughton. In 1851 he was appointed Professor of Geology in Trinity College and began the study of medicine in 1859. By 1862 he earned the degree of MD from the University of Dublin. He was then made registrar of the Medical School, the status of which he did much to improve, and he represented the university on the General Medical Council from 1878 to 1896. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1858, and in course of time Oxford conferred upon him the Hon. Degree of DCL (Doctor of Civil Law) and Cambridge and Edinburgh that of LL.D (Doctor of Laws).
Samuel Haughton was also involved in the Dublin and Kingstown Railway company, in which he looked after the building of the first locomotives. It was the first railway company in the world to build its own locomotives. He published many books on science, geology, mathematics and manuals, one written on tides and currents in the Irish Sea hoping it would reduce the number of shipwrecks in the channel. A truly remarkable man. He died in 1897.